Arewa women are changing narratives and this time, it is on sexual assaults and sexual harassments. Men in northern Nigeria have always had the protection of religion and culture, propping up a system of patriarchy that marginalized women in the region. This patriarchy gave them the upper hand to make northern women to be stereotyped as intimidated/voiceless. The Arewa woman is a back seater to integral issues in society. There are reasons most northern women haven’t spoken and these are some of them:
‘Kina so ki bamu kunya?’ (You want to bring shame to us?)
This is what a lot of victims/survivors are asked when they report their perpetrators to their loved ones. Your family, value their place in society more than your humiliating experience. You are told to seal your mouth to avoid being the topic of your neighbourhood. The sad reality is victims abused by their perpetrators are mostly extended and nuclear family members and this has led to perpetrators roaming around freely, giving them more power. #ArewaMeToo is here to end that.
As victims/survivors are speaking up, some disgusting people ask why victims/survivors visited their perpetrators, why she dressed a certain way, why did she not stay locked at home and even asking why she slays. Every time women speak up, they get blamed one way or the other. They are asked why they chatted with their perpetrators or how they are too cordial. The perpetrators are never questioned. We are tired of been shamed and feeling shamed. No one deserves to be assaulted or harassed sexually.
Early childhood, the self-esteem of the average Arewa girl child is low. Now, imagine the assaulted/harassed Arewa girl child. A ticking time bomb. Women are coming forward, unlike the past where women were controlled with fear. A victim narrated her experience and what she was told by her aunt was “No one is going to blame the guy because you have given away your integrity and that of your family, so better keep mute about this because it is not part of our culture and you wouldn’t want to remain single for the rest of your life.” Fear is an obstacle.
Another reason why victims don’t speak up is that they haven’t seen any actions taken on abusers. They also haven’t seen enough support systems from past experiences. “What if I get thrown out of the house?” Amira asked during a session. Most victims are asking for support from shelter to protection/safety to therapy to justice. Most victims said they are sure other would open up when there is a strong support system.
All we are saying:
Enough is enough. As victims/survivors are speaking up, we should try as much as possible to support, protect and make them feel worthy. Arewa women are articulate. This is an encouragement for other women to know their rights. Victims are pushing away the shame to their perpetrators.
This is a big step for arewa women. They are changing the ancient definition of what alot think they are. Arewa women are speaking up for silent marginalised voices. Everyone’s participation is essential for a world free from perpetrators/abusers. This is for all arewa women and we are just getting started.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Fatima Allahnanan is an accounting graduate from Nasarawa State University, currently undergoing her NYSC. When she is not blogging, she is creating contents for tv shows or podcasting. Her latest projects are on YouTube: “The Teasquad and Madam Risk.” She can be reached via Twitter: @phatymahbint, Instagram: @annoying_Ummi and Blog: www.phatymahblog.wordpress.com